Stephen Kelly became CEO of Sage in November 2014, after a period as the UK Government’s Chief Operating Officer. Before Whitehall, he has led a number of technology companies, and is also an SME investor and director. He entered the #socialCEO Top Ten in January 2015 at number 5.
Here he explores his use of social networks:
I think it may be as simple of fear of new technology and less traditional ways of communicating. I think as a CEO, when you go ‘Social’, you have to ‘let go’ and embrace the community. Some CEOs may have anxiety about a perceived loss of control.
Has being social network-connected changed the way in which you, as an executive, do business?
Yes definitely. Probably, the best aspect is when customers and partners feel confident to connect directly with you – it is very powerful. Every CEO wants to listen the the market heartbeat. It is also great to stay close with the family when travelling – FaceTime, SnapChat fun.
My colleagues were probably initially surprised. The great progression is that more and more of our colleagues are ‘getting social’ and this is a catalyst for much better collaboration. I say stuff like ‘The Egyptians buried people in Pyramids 5,000 years ago – modern organisations continue this suffocation today’. Hierarchies stifle people and innovation. Social channels collapse hierarchies, and genuinely support a more vibrant, collaborative culture.
You’ve recently moved from a senior public sector role back into the commercial world. Do you see differences in how social networks are perceived by leaders in the two sectors?
Probably not in terms of the Executive of the Civil Service. However, some Ministers see social media as a great way to engage with democracy and digital debate. For example, way beyond just social media, Francis Maude is an Evangelist of the Digital movement whilst inclusive towards citizens who prefer traditional channels. In both public & private sectors, Social is a fantastic way to engage in a broad community especially with the generation of the future and break down barriers.
Probably best talk with your in-house Comms person, and starting with Twitter. If there is any resistance internally, ask for a social, youthful, high performing colleague to ‘buddy with’ and start getting social. Just take baby steps and any fears dispel quickly. CEOs are smart people and sensible rules apply with any communications.